Jeopardy! is as close to perfect as any television show and a monoculture icon that may never be replicated. The program has such strong DNA that it rarely requires anything more than minor tinkering. Yet there hasn't been a steadfast resistance to change and adaption by the show's brass, which is rightly thoughtful in growing with the times. All of that is praise and preamble to the news of the day, information that will delight a very specific Venn diagram of sports and pop culture enthusiasts.
The future will now include daily Jeopardy! box scores for fan perusal.
Executive producer Michael Davies writes:
You will see from the box score posted below for today’s episode, Amy’s 31st win, that it is a dense, stats-filled spreadsheet. It will not be for everyone, just like a MLB box score isn’t for everyone. But for many of our fans, it contains some fascinating information. For the first time ever, we are making public the “lock-in” or “buzzer” data that we collect in every episode but have never published before. Now you’ll be able to see, for example, that in today’s game Amy attempted to buzz in 46 times in the Single and Double Jeopardy! rounds. She was successful 32 times and gave the correct response 30 times (right around her elite daily average). But you’ll also see that her opponents, Emma and Ally, made 57 attempts to buzz in between them in Single and Double Jeopardy!, but were only successful a combined 19 times. And hence, the game became a runaway.
So now for the first time, you will actually get proof of what, anecdotally, non-winning Jeopardy! contestants have shared for years: they couldn’t get in on the buzzer! It is such a vital element of the game, and our champions dominate in that aspect. (If you’re interested in a little more detail about the buzzer, here’s a link to a fantastic article from a few years back about how it works.) From what I have observed, our returning champions buzz in first partly because of experience and natural speed, but also because they have figured out the correct response quickest, or in Amy’s words in her brilliant essay for Defector: “You have to untangle the question before you can even begin to find the answer.”
That pulsating buzz you feel in the air is the electricity of in-depth buzzer data being available after years of opaqueness. The machinations of buzzing in and gulf in skill level between contestants is a much more significant part of the game than casual viewers would ever consider. Longtime readers of The Big Lead may remember that my personal experience on Sports Jeopardy was doomed by having atrocious timing on the unit and not improving until it was too late.
Game show analytics, like their sports companions, are cynically viewed and bulk dragging down the pure fun. More accurately they are a different entry point for some to become fans and additional content for diehards who can't get enough. In short, this all seems like an excellent idea.
We will, of course, need a version of Tim Kurkjian to materialize and take the reins, disseminating the nuggets and nuance to the collective public. Quite a lane to claim for those able to do it.